The benefits of joining a cross-country ski club
Families say becoming a member is fun, social and a great way to spend time outdoors with other parents and kids
Neil Price says winters have become a lot more enjoyable since his family joined the cross-country Viking Ski Club in Morin-Heights eight years ago. Apart from the many health benefits, the social aspect is a big hit with his partner and two kids (now 11 and 12). “There are many group activities for the children so there is great sense of comraderie,” Price said. “They love playing together in the snow after the lessons are over.”
Located in the Laurentians, an hour drive north of Montreal, the ski club is a non-profit organization founded in 1929 and run by volunteers. Price says he loves cross-country skiing because it is something the family can do together. “In other sports, like organized hockey, the parents end up sitting on the sidelines in the cold arena while the kids are having fun.”
Suzanne Vaillancourt says she joined because she loves the sport and wanted to sign her four boys up for lessons. “My husband and I taught our kids to downhill ski but we weren’t as confident about being able to teach them how to cross country,” she said. “It worked out well because the club hires really cool teenagers who can relate to the kids and they make the lessons fun. Also, the sport is great because it improves coordination and balance at a fraction of the cost of downhill skiing.”
Some of the other club activities include roasting marshmallows over a bonfire, scavenger hunts in the forest, mini-Olympics, dress-up days and an end-of-season BBQ.
“My kids love the races as well as the orienteering aspect of the lessons, which is like taking part in a treasure hunt in the woods,” Vaillancourt said. “Last year, our oldest son started doing biathlon and he loves skiing through the woods and shooting at targets.”
According to Dr. Andreas Bergdahl, exercise science assistant professor at Concordia University, cross-country skiing provides a full-body workout because it forces you to use large muscle groups that are not often exercised at the same time. For example, unlike running or cycling, it combines both a lower body and upper body workout. Bergdahl also says it improves your cardiovascular endurance more than other sports because there is often a change of pace and rhythm throughout the activity, which pushes your body to work harder.
The club organizes four youth programs, taught in English and French, for children ages 4-17 that take place from January to March. These programs are for club members and range from $90-$340.
The Viking BRs (ages 4-5) and Viking JRs (ages 6-12) programs offer a balance between learning skiing skills and having fun through games and playing in groups. This can include playing soccer on skis or going through an obstacle course, activities that help youngsters become comfortable on skis while learning skills such as balance and skiing without poles.
The Viking Arrows (ages 10-16) is a follow-up program for Viking JRs’ graduates who want to race. The team takes part in a selection of races during the season, focusing on improving ski technique and setting personal challenges, while at the same time stressing the importance of team spirit.
The final youth program is the Viking Challenge for ages 12-17. This program is a follow-up from the Viking JRs for older skiers who have good endurance and are looking to improve their technique through recreational ski activities. The program is designed so that skiers work with the instructor to decide on the group’s challenges during the season.
There are also three ski programs for adults, adjusted to every ability level. Each program includes three, one-hour lessons given on Sundays.
Club membership fees range from $130 for a student or senior, $180 for an adult, and $290 for a family. For more information, visit vikingskiclub.ca.
Other cross-country ski clubs
Ski de Fond Quebec
157-F Principale, St. Sauveur
skidefondquebec.ca • (450) 744-0858
Association Régionale de ski de fond des Laurentides
Secteur Mont Rollant, Ste. Adèle
skidefondlaurentides.com • (514) 247-7300
Chelsea Nordiq Ski Club
33 Scott Rd., Chelsea